CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Charlotte 49ers softball team has advanced to its seventh consecutive Atlantic 10 Tournament after splitting with Dayton Saturday. The Niners (28-24; 10-10 A10) took the first game of the series, 4-2, to secure the #5 seed in the tournament, but fell 6-4 in game two to the Flyers (22-29; 9-10 A10). Saturday, which was also Senior Day, marked the final day of the regular season for the 49ers.
Chelsea Stamey's two-run double in the bottom of the sixth proved to be the difference-maker, giving Charlotte a 4-2 lead in game one that resulted in a 49er victory. With one out in the frame, Samantha Slade walked and Jackie Kleinsmith singled through the left side to put runners on first and second. Stamey then doubled to drive in both runners for the Charlotte advantage.
It was Dayton who struck first in the game, taking a 1-0 in the top of the first on Brandy Brown's RBI single that scored Natalie Mariano, who reached on a double earlier in the inning.
Charlotte bounced back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame when Slade crushed her fourth home run of the season, bringing home Lorena Vela for a 2-1 Niner lead.
The Flyers tied it up in the top of the fourth when Leah Sitter doubled to center with runners on first and second to score a run. The first base runner, Dana Trotta, however, was thrown out on a series of heads up throws by the 49ers defense; Alex Rogers relayed a throw from center field that touched the glove of every infield player before Stamey eventually tagged her out at third.
Neither team managed to score another run until Charlotte's sixth inning rally.
Stamey and Slade led the Niners' offense with two hits apiece; each player drove in a pair of runs, as well. For Dayton, Brown and Sitter tallied a hit and an RBI each.
Lexi Betancourt (15-12) earned the win in the circle, hurling a complete game and allowing just four hits. She walked three and struck out two. Kayla English (10-10) suffered the loss Dayton, allowing six runs with seven strikeouts and a walk.
Game two was a different story, as Dayton scored runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to take a commanding 6-0 lead before Charlotte was able to get on the board.
Flyers' Jordan Jennings highlighted the fourth frame with a two-run shot to left that scored Lauren Nacke. The pair teamed up again the following inning, this time with Jennings' singling up the middle to drive in Nacke again.
Trailing 6-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Niners made a respectable attempt at a comeback, putting four runs on the scoreboard. Vela led off with a double to center field before Briana Gwaltney singled for the first time in the game. Stamey then walked to load the bases for Kalie Lang, who reached on a throwing error by the Flyers' third baseman that resulted in a pair of Charlotte runs. The next batter, Kleinsmith, notched a two-run double to left to pull her team within two runs, 6-4.
But that was all the Niners could manage in the sixth, and after allowing a leadoff walk to Rogers to open the seventh, Dayton reliever English sat the next three 49er batters down in order, ending the game.
Playing in her final regular season game in a 49ers uniform, lone senior Vela fittingly led the 49ers offense in game two, going 2-for-3 with a run scored. Between the two games, she went 3-for-6 with a double and two runs scored on Senior Day.
Despite striking out six, Katie Watkins (12-12) suffered the loss, going 4.2 innings and allowing five earned runs on eight hits. Chelsea Lisikatos gave up three hits and a run in 2.1 innings of relief. For Dayton, Alysha Isaacson (5-10) earned the victory, allowing three earned runs on seven hits through 5.2 innings. English picked up her third save of the season, throwing 1.1 scoreless innings.
Charlotte has secured the #5 seed in the A10 Tournament with today's split and will leave Tuesday morning for St. Louis. More tournament information will follow shortly.